The Public Commodification of Personal Trauma in Küba

Theodore M. Way

University of Southampton, United Kingdom


The Public Commodification of Personal Trauma in Küba

From 18 January to 24 February 2007, Southampton City Council hosted Küba, a traveling multimedia exhibit. The exhibit was commissioned by Artangel, an organization based in London that is committed to “producing work that people really want to see and for which they often travel miles to experience” (Artangel). In the words of the exhibit’s propaganda, Küba “reveals the lives of forty residents in one of Istanbul's most impenetrable ghettos” (Southampton City Council).

In this paper, I will look at the public display of Küba in Southampton, UK. Based on entries in the visitors’ comments book and on my own observation of the exhibit, I will analyze this from a critical discourse analysis perspective in order to answer the following questions (based on questions posed by Hesford (1999) in examining the film Rape Stories):

•What cultural knowledge do visitors display of their understanding of the exhibit in their comments?

•What rôles or stances does the exhibit elicit from visitors as evidenced in their comments?

oDid the exhibit elicit an empathetic stance?

o…a stance of identification?

o…the rôle of bearing witness?

•What social and cultural expectations have the narrators internalized as seen in the 40 exhibits?

•What cultural scripts do the narrators reproduce or contest through the act of self-representation?

I hope to place this exhibit within larger discourses in sociolinguistics on trauma and transnationalism and, in doing so, to contribute to a further understanding of “the discursive and cultural mechanisms that survivors inflect in representing trauma” (Hesford 204).


Artangel. "Küba". London, 2006. Artangel. March 18, 2007. .

Hesford, Wendy S. "Reading Rape Stories: Material Rhetoric and the Trauma of Representation." College English 62.2 (1999): 192-221.

Southampton City Council. "Küba: Kutlug Ataman." Southampton: Southampton City Council, 2007.

Session: Paper session
Language/medical 2
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 12